The Dead End

Written by: EW on 12/10/2009 10:55:54

This review has been a difficult one to conjure up. More so than almost any other review I've done thus far, this third album by Swedish doomsters Abandon is one big, and staggeringly difficult listen, yet hidden beneath the tapestry of suffocatingly tortuous doom processions is an album that has frankly left my jaw on the floor. You will have to accept my apologies that I am certifying this album so highly after just four listens. I have had little opportunity for music listening of late, but more so, "The Dead End" is a terrifying 106 minutes long; pop punk this is not.

Now I don't know if it is related to the direction my life seems to be heading but recent times have uncovered a passion deep within my darkest recesses for the most painful, crushing doom metal on a scale such as this. The latent struggles felt within listens to "The Dead End" are only enhanced through learning of the album's posthumous release to singer (and artist of the wonderful accompanying artwork) Johan Karlsson who passed away through an overdose last December. Karlsson's infrequent howls are chilling; the sound of a man who, if not knowing he was on his last legs, was certainly at odds with the world. It is the aforementioned infrequency of his appearances over the 106 minutes that add credence to his power, where in a style reminiscent of that deployed by the excellent Bossk, the drama is accentuated in those moments deemed worthy of his depressive wailings.

In the album's blurb the band stress the toll that "The Dead End" has taken on them, and right from the outset one gets a sense of how true that statement could be. "Bitter The Surface" opens with the wonderful thick, heaving sound of Mehdi Vafaei's pump organ as it gently caresses you through the entrance of territories soon to be plummeted by the Cult Of Luna influenced doom works. Permanently slow, Abandon trawl through a psyche of crawling dirging doom that is accentuated by the faint organ work backing the likes of "In Reality Suffer", a song which feels like an attempt to exorcise evil spirits lurking in the minds of "The Dead End"'s makers. The thickness to be found in the riffs of songs such as "It's All Gone" and "Pitch Black Hole" lend to the suggestion of Abandon being a sludge band, a classification while not wholly incorrect, sits less comfortably with the gradual progression into funereal and droning territories in the album's second half.

With five songs lasting over 11 minutes and a total running time far exceeding the length of a football match, Abandon are in no hurry to reach their final destination, and are determined to take you on the sorrowful journey with them. The title track of the album feels like a requiem to their fallen comrade, being a 14-minute instrumental riding an amalgamation of Cult Of Luna's tone and the religious diction of later, more plodding Reverend Bizarre works. The result is gloriously melancholic, as organ, bass and guitar all take their turns to lead the descent into remembrance. During survival of the following final three songs, which themselves take a combined 45 minutes, my thoughts turn from appreciation of what had up to this point been a very good album into something truly great.

Recalling the very same thoughts one tends to appreciate during the bleakest of doom experiences, "It's All Gone" is raised magnificently by Karlsson's clean harrowing vocals. Too prostate and slow for no doubt even many doomsters, Abandon in the latter stages begin resembling the likes of Asva, Warning and Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine where the feel suggests not what they want to do, more all they can do in a battle against external forces pressuring against them. This pressure comes to some kind of release in 19-minute closer "Eulogy" where after seemingly hours of knocking on drone's door Abandon are finally entered with a piece that brings to a quiet solemn and dignified end their closure on the death of a friend and bandmate. Fittingly, it is the organ that dictates the final song so well, as it did the opening track and much of the material sandwiched in between.

Whether it remains to be seen that Abandon will ever release another album following "The Dead End", it has a feel proximate feel to Reverend Bizarre's final work "So Long Suckers" in that they seem to be acknowledging their own fate in the closing periods of the album, knowing we are remembering the death of more than just one man at this point, but of a band too. Just trying to make it through the extended duration of "The Dead End" is challenge enough but come it's conclusion, the journey has felt necessary and logical, as never do I question the direction or time taken in doing so. In a year with some superb releases this has got to be the most extreme; "The Dead End" will serve as a great testimony to the departed Johan Karlsson in a quite extraordinary way.

Download: Pitch Black Hole, The Dead End, Eulogy
For The Fans Of: Skepticism, Asva, Cult Of Luna
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 09.10.09
Black Star Foundation

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